Nine medicinal marijuana patients filed tort claims totaling $621,000 for monetary damages in Lake County, California. Growers were granted a preliminary injunction in an ongoing legal struggle preventing the authorities of Lake County from warrantless raids.
The claimants, including 66-year-old patient Carl Ray Harris who had nine plants growing, 60-year-old patient Mona Allen who had six plants, and 70-year-old patient Nina Fay Sikes, who was growing fourteen plants with her husband, were all raided throughout mid to late October. Medical marijuana was seized without a warrant, consent, or any advanced notice by Lake County law enforcement, who broke through several gates and entered the patients’ property unlawfully.
The victims are seeking monetary damages ranging from $59,000 to $125,000 in compensation for the destruction of each claimants’ property. The Lake County Sheriff’s office was charged for conducting paramilitary-type raid operations without warrants or proper abatement notices. Punitive damages are also being sought for the lack of legal documentation required on site by law.
“This case has made clear that law enforcement, when given such unbridled discretion, will use it to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights,” said Joe Elford, a lawyer based out of San Francisco who filed the claims on behalf of the unlawfully raided residents of Lakeport, California. “When they (law enforcement) do so, people whose rights have been violated deserve lawful justice for having to endure that abuse of authority,” continued Elford. “The county is not above the law, and it has an obligation to respect people’s constitutional rights when carrying out local policy or pay the consequences.”
A lawsuit was filed earlier in the year with the San Francisco federal court challenging the Lake County law enforcement’s use of Measure N (an ordinance that restricts medical marijuana cultivation in the county). These recent tort claims are in direct relation to the lawsuit. In June, Measure N was barely accepted with less than 52 percent of the vote. In the August, 2012 case, excessive law enforcement linked to Measure N was challenged successfully. A preliminary injunction was also granted for the case brought on by fellow medicinal marijuana patient Don Merrill, who also cited constitutional violations.